The annual Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah, which bills itself as "the premier showcase for independent film," is just over halfway through its ten-day run. Already, some big deals have been brokered, and an unlikely actress has earned "next big thing" status. Here are five talking points that have Tinseltown tongues wagging:

1. The Future is the buzziest film (so far)
The second movie from performance artist Miranda July (Me and You and Everyone We Know) is "the film of the festival" thus far, says Kyle Buchanan in New York. The story of a couple in their mid-30s and a stray cat they take in starts out so earnestly and innocently that you almost "miss the emotional sideswipe that's coming." The Future establishes July as "one of cinema's most vital voices."

2. Kevin Smith's Red State rant
Director/writer Kevin Smith (Clerks, Zack and Miri Make a Porno) stirred up festival-goers with a speech he delivered after the premiere of his bloody new horror flick Red State, which focuses on a group of teens encountering religious fundamentalists in Middle America. Though Smith had tweeted his plans to auction the film to a distributor, he took to the stage to "buy" his own movie for $20 with an eye to releasing it himself. Smith compared the process of letting a distributor handle his movies to letting someone else rear your child. The "rant made Smith seem like a tortured, angry guy," says Mike Fleming at Deadline. He "spent 15 minutes shitting all over those buyers in the crowd, the ones watching films all day and pulling all-nighters to broker deals."

3. The Olsen twins have a sister — and she's legitimately talented
With two films at the festival — a horror flick called Silent House and a drama about a woman fleeing a cult called Martha Marcy May Marlene — Liz Olsen, the younger sister of Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen, has been deemed "this year's Sundance 'It' girl." "Does the world need another Olsen sister?" asks Anthony Breznica in Entertainment Weekly. "The answer out of Sundance is hell yeah." Olsen, 21, has just signed on to join Robert De Niro and Sigourney Weaver in the upcoming psychological thriller Red Lights.

4. A Paul Rudd film, My Idiot Brother, fetched $6 million
Although the Weinstein Company and Ron Burkle teamed up to pay $6 million (one of the festival's biggest deals) for this Rudd comedy, My Idiot Brother, didn't wow certain observers. It's "no worse than Rudd's latest vehicle, How Do You Know, but it's yet another leading role that fails to live up to Rudd's talent," says Jon DeFore in The Hollywood Reporter. "And it's hard to imagine it approaching the commercial success of his more high-concept studio comedies."

5. The recession has produced at least one desirable movie
Lionsgate Films and Roadside Attractions picked up Margin Call, a thrilling Wall Street drama for $1 million after an all-night negotiation session with a half a dozen interested buyers. "If there's a need for a character study about the panic felt by Wall Streeters up and down the food chain in the cataclysmic days of 2008," Margin Call, with a cast that includes Kevin Spacey and Stanley Tucci, fills it, says Steven Zeitchik in the Los Angeles Times.